NEW ENGLAND EXPECTS an average to above-average 2019 apple crop in most locations. The season has been running a little behind schedule at many orchards due to the long, hot summer, but the recent arrival of cool nights will bring the desired color and flavor to the apples before harvest.
Due primarily to budget cuts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) no longer includes the individual New England states in its national forecast; these estimates are based on recent history and an informal poll of the region’s growers. New England’s fresh apple crop should total between 3.5 million and 4 million 42-pound boxes (the modern equivalent of a bushel).
Connecticut: 630,000 boxes
Maine: 1,140,000 boxes
Massachusetts: 1,000,000 boxes
New Hampshire: 440,000 boxes
Rhode Island: 45,000 boxes
Vermont: 400,000 boxes
Nationally, Washington state expects a huge crop, estimated at 165 million boxes by the U.S. Apple Association in its annual forecast, which is refined from the USDA survey. The next largest apple-producing states, New York (31.5 million), and Michigan (25.25 million), expect normal-sized crops.
New England’s growers will be watching the tariff situation with China and Mexico closely. If Washington state cannot export apples to these two countries, the New England marketplace could be flooded with apples from the Pacific Northwest, creating great competitive pressure with locally grown apples.
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ONE OF THE LATE-SEASON HAZARDS for apple growers is the threat of hail. A grower can do everything right and invest heavily in producing a beautiful crop from January on, only to have it wiped out in minutes during a summer hailstorm.
Depending on its size, a hailstone can dent or puncture an apple. Some of the damage is cosmetic. We consumers have come to expect perfection in produce — no bent or gnarly carrots or misshapen cucumbers reach our grocery shelves. Yet if the damage is slight, there is no loss of flavor or texture in a dinged apple, despite its surface.
The bigger problem with heavily damaged apples is storage. If the apples have puncture marks, they will not store as well, so they end up being used for cider, at a fraction of the price they would earn if the apples were whole.
Many growers have crop insurance, but it is expensive, and typically only covers a portion of the loss, and only after a certain threshold is met; as much as half or two-thirds of the crop must be impacted before the insurance kicks in.
Fortunately, there has been little hail damage reported in the region in 2019. But at least a few orchards are hit every year. If your favorite orchard experienced hail damage this summer, give the apples a try. You will be helping the grower as well as pleasing your palate.
For more on this subject, read Apple Dings and Dents.
DEPENDING ON where you live, these large sandwiches on long, split rolls stuffed with fillings are known as subs, grinders, po’boys, or torpedos, among others. Whatever you call it, this version starring New England apples makes a delicious meal.
For a spicier version, use horseradish mayonnaise and/or cheddar.
1-1/2 T mayonnaise
1 t mustard
1 T wine vinegar
1 T minced onion
2 T Craisins
freshly ground black pepper
1 New England apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 c cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 T feta cheese
1/2 c shredded cabbage
1/2 loaf French bread
In medium bowl, mix dressing ingredients.
Add apple, cheeses, and cabbage. Stir lightly.
Slice bread length-wise. Line with spinach leaves.
Add spoonfuls of apple mixture.
Enjoy! Makes enough for 3-4 heros.